This is the day in 1992, when The Skatalites and I arrived in Saint-Nazaire and met for the first time
My bicycle ride today was about 160 km from Saint-Georges-des-Gardes to Beaupréau and Vallet and Vertou to arrive on time in Saint-Nazaire.
The Skatalites took another 500 km to arrive in Saint-Nazaire as well.
On the map today, it’s easy to see, what I presumably ride 25 years ago.
I woke up early at 6 AM, but it was too dark to ride along. One hour later, I was on my bicycle. After two hours I arrived Beaupréau. After three hours I was in Vallet. At noon I was in Vertou. After that, everything was very fast. I saw the massive bridge heading to Saint-Nazaire. It’s huge, and with bicycle quite brutal to ride. I went to the Hotel Le Dauphin. Vin told me that this will be the residence for the Skatalites. But there was no free room for me, when I asked at the lobby. And the Skatalites were not yet arrived. I found the Hotel Atlantique, took my first shower after a long time and went back to the Hotel Le Dauphin (both hotels are closed today. I don’t have no address of the hotel Atlantique):
When I entered the lobby first of all I saw Tommy McCook. What a big stone felt from my heart. Finally, here they are! Here I am. But I went to say hallo to Vin (he was the only one I knew already). Then Vin left and I went to Tommy McCook. I asked if he is Tommy McCook. I said, that is a great honor to see him now and that I drove 600 miles by bicycle to see and hear The Skatalites. He was quite surprised and said: “And who are you?” And I said: “Clat, Ras Clat”. He started to laugh. He was very amused. On the sofa, there was Rolando Alphonso. He was sitting there very comfortable, I didn’t wanted to disturb him. I asked Tommy why he wasn’t playing the flute on the Herbie Mann Reggae album (see Reggae). Tommy was amused again. He told me, that he and Herbie were playing two flutes in the studio and Herbie recorded the sessions as well, but never released them, because he said: “Nobody can hear, who is who on the flute”. Then Tommy had to play the tenor sax. Herbie was paying the sessions (more Reggae tunes by Herbie Mann with Tommy McCook came out two years later on Reggae II and again in 1981 on Mellow where my favourite tune is from those sessions Bend Down Low). Money rules the world. Then Dion and Ossy said hello. I didn’t know that Dion is Lloyd Knibbs son. And Ossy was the only German, so it was great to speak German with him. Dion was eating fish. Vin told me to come back to the hotel a bit later. We all took another rest.
Later, a taxi-bus brought a few of us to the festival area.
Transfer from the Hotel Le Dauphin to the festival:
The Festival Les Escales still exists:
- Website today: www.festival-les-escales.com
- Websites about the history of the festival and the 1992 edition:
- www.ouest-france.fr with the following part about The Skatalites: “Mais déjà, en 1992, l’événement Skatalites, les papys du ska jamaïcain, groupe mythique aux yeux des aficionados, attire l’attention de la presse nationale. « Libé » leur consacre une page.” That means, that The Skatalites show was important to the festival.
When we left the bus a whole lotta people were there. But no one recognized The Skatalites. There was a big open tent with a huge stage (about 10000 visitors, called “Parc des expositions”) so The Skatalites and I was in the audience. Beside of me, there was Rolando Alphonso, Lloyd Brevett, Lloyd Knibb, Tommy McCook and Vin. I don’t remember, who else of the band was with us, presumably Devon James and Cary Brown was also with us. Then Dennis Bovell And The Dub Band went on stage.
While we listened the concert I was talking with Rolando Alphonso and Lloyd Brevett. After a few tunes, Brevett was laughing and said, that the band on stage don’t play no Reggae. He was clapping in his hands and kept on saying: “This a no Reggae, mon”. I didn’t find out, why he said that, but it was funny. Rolando asked me, where The Skatalites gonna play tomorrow.
I had no idea.
After a while Brevett came to me with two French ladies. He asked me, if I could translate. They had a program plan with them. Where I saw, that the Skatalites are planned to play two shows on “Quai Demange”. I saw, that Rolando was a bit disappointed, that they won’t play in this huge tent. And when I asked Vin about that circumstance, he told me, that he will try his best to change the location. I don’t know how, but Vin found a way, that the next day the show was in this same place! And that was very important, because the Skatalites had a nation wide press after that show.
I have recorded some of the talks because I had the plan to record the shows with my new portable Sony DAT Walkman (digital audio tape). To test the recording, I recorded the talking from inside my jacket.
In the first part, Tommy McCook is talking about UB40, that was part of our talk about English Reggae. Then Henry Matic Tenyue plays a great trombone solo in the background. I’m telling it to Rolando Alphonso. At that time Linton Kwesi Johnson is still not on stage.
I’m asking Rolando Alphonso, if The Skatalites ever played in Europe. But beside England, they also played in Japan. I knew already, because I had ordered a CD from Japan from 1989 (discogs), but I didn’t know, that they just played in Japan in April 1992 (see Freedom Sounds on YouTube it’s more than fantastic, but there is also Lester Sterling in the band stand. Lester Sterling wasn’t able to follow to Europe for this tour, I’m not very sure, but I guess it was a trouble with the visa only. Another sample of The Skatalites live in 1992 can be seen here with El Pussy Cat from the New York show again with all three saxophones, but this time, the line up is more different from the European tour, Cary Brown is replaced by Bill Smith and the trombone is different as well, but I don’t see with who, maybe already Will Skabone Clark.) Meanwhile Linton Kwesi Johnson is on stage. Listen now the words of Rolando Alphonso:
Rolando Alphonso is talking about Don Drummond:
Two French ladies welcomed Lloyd Brevett:
Lloyd Brevett is talking with the two French ladies. He asked me to help translating.
Isn’t it strange, that the headliner for the Jamaican part of the festival is English? The Skatalites are billed after Linton Kwesi Johnson and Fab 5, but before Lieutenant Stitchie, what?
As you can see in the Festival program it was the plan, that the Skatalites should play twice on the little stage outside. Luckily they played in “Parc des Exositions” like Linton Kwesi Johnson. But that wasn’t known the day before the show.
The full festival program
These are my only recordings of talks with The Skatalites. When I did that, I didn’t felt comfortable. I always felt like a thief. But when I listen to these talks today, 25 years later, I only feel ashamed about myself and my voice. I can’t stand myself in those recordings. However, I love to listen the voices of Tommy, Rolando and Lloyd Brevett. I’m very sorry today, that I didn’t record more like that. But I’m not a journalist, and I keep it all deep in my heart.
After the show, The Skatalites and I went backstage to Linton Kwesi Johnson and Dennis Bovell. It was the very first time, they met each other. Dennis was very happy to meet Lloyd Brevett and Lloyd Knibb. A lot of hugs later, they were already friends. Linton Kwesi wasn’t that close, his intellectual spirit didn’t match with the rude boys too much.
Because I have no pictures of this very first meeting of these very different personalities, take a look at the pictures by NoF-NoF at the Paléo Festival 1992 in Nyon (see NoF-NoF picture database). And tomorrow you will see some pictures of The Skatalites in this blog.
Later, we all went back to the taxi-bus, that brought us back to the Hotel.